Britain’s negotiations with the European Union (EU) on the brexite agreement and future relations are said to have been delayed because of fishing quotas, but the real reason, according to several sources to Washington Newsday, is the wait for the US elections to be completed.
Since the brexite negotiations are expected to be concluded before the end of 2020 and before Joe Biden takes office, what is happening now may not be as special to Biden as the rebuilding of global relations is to Britain’s “special relationship” with the US.
Trump, a man who called brexite “a good thing” and who saw the role of U.S. ambassador to the EU as a part-time job, is on his way out, and Biden, a committed pro-European and ally of both French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel from his time as vice president, is on his way in. For Britain this brings the country from a strong negotiating position with promises of US free trade agreements before the EU to a position of relative weakness.
The deadline for an agreement has been set by Britain at October 15 and by the EU at the end of October. Both deadlines have now expired. The unmissable deadline – at least for the moment – is December 31, when Britain will leave the interim agreement – with or without an agreement.
There are still a number of issues in the negotiations, primarily to ensure that Britain and the EU operate on a level playing field and that existing commitments are honored. However, two issues remain the biggest sticking points – the border on the island of Ireland and the fishing industry.
The Internal Markets Bill, a proposal by the British government to amend the law and, after Brexit, to allow the smooth movement of goods between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, would be in breach of international law. It has been heavily criticized by European politicians.
The border on the Irish island, protected by the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to the countries, is potentially threatened by these changes. Biden, Nancy Pelosi and other senators have made it clear that the US will not stand idly by when peace is threatened in Ireland. That Biden has an Irish heritage makes things even more difficult for Britain. Biden has even tweeted: “Any trade agreement between the US and Britain must be made conditional on the agreement being honoured and the return of a hard border prevented. Period.”
Like-minded people in the British House of Lords voted to remove these clauses, and it is unclear what Prime Minister Boris Johnson will do next: he continues the legislation and risks bad relations with President-elect Biden from the outset or another about-face and thus a weaker agreement with the EU.
In the disputes over fishing, access to British waters is considered the UK’s strongest trump card in the negotiations. Despite accounting for 0.12 per cent of British GDP, ending European access to the “Exclusive Economic Zone” around Britain could seriously hamper European fisheries markets.
Although this is seen as a diversionary tactic, as Europe has been waiting for the US elections to close, this has still not been resolved. But the outcome of the election has really changed everything:
“I wonder if a British-American trade agreement would have any kind of priority for a Biden-led presidency,” a senior British official told Washington Newsday. “There are rumours that the most important relationship [for Biden]will be with Merkel and Macron. There is a danger that while he will be perfectly friendly, he is not a fan of brexite and we will be put in the last place in the queue.
“In reality it is not massively benefiting the British economy to get a trade agreement with the US. But psychologically speaking, since during the brexite debate, before and after the referendum, it dangled before the British people as the shining star on the horizon, it would be a great psychological blow if this were not on the table.
Johnson is only too aware that the “special relationship” with the United States will come under increasing pressure as he is described by the incumbent president as “Britain’s trump card” and regularly works closely with the outgoing president.
“Yes, this country has had a good relationship with the White House in recent years, but it has had a good relationship with the White House for many, many years,” Johnson said in a press conference. “I have no doubt that we will be